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Crate Training Your Puppy
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Crate Training Your Puppy

Jack, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Sep 24, 2020

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Getting your puppy used to a crate has many advantages, even if you’re not planning to crate them overnight or when you’re away from the house. Crate training allows you to transport your dog more easily or board them at kennels when you are away. With patience, gentle encouragement, and the right set-up, your pup may even find comfort and security in their crate.

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1

Select the right crate

black and white dog or puppy in metal cage or crate Justin Smith / Getty Images

An essential part of picking a crate is getting the right dimensions for your pup. When crate training a puppy, ensure that you choose a crate that will accommodate their adult size. Your dog should be able to stand and turn around in it comfortably. Another option is to rent crates from nearby animal shelters, which allows you to switch them out as your puppy grows.

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Introduce your dog slowly to the crate

Your dog should first be comfortable being around the crate. AndreaObzerova / Getty Images

Place the crate in the place where you spend the most time, such as the family room. Prop open the door and put a soft blanket or towel inside, then give your dog time to investigate this strange new object.

If you’re lucky, they might climb inside and go right to sleep. However, chances are that your pup will take a more cautious apprach, placing just a paw or two inside. Don’t force your dog to do more than that at this stage.

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Build pleasant associations

Use meal times to encourage your dog to see the crate in a positive way. CarlyDybka / Getty Images

The goal is for your dog to feel relaxed in and around their crate. Start to establish a positive relatioship with their crate by placing treats and toys into the crate. Not only will it encourage your dog to step inside, but they will also be rewarded for doing so by retrieving their favorite toy or treat from inside.

Mealtimes are particularly enjoyable for dogs, so start feeding your pup near the crate. Place their food at the entrance at first, then, as they develop in confidence, inch the food dish further inside each time. Do this until your dog eats all their food while fully inside the crate.

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4

Get your dog used to having the door closed

Build up crate time very gradually. cmannphoto / Getty Images

Once your dog is happy to be inside the crate, you can start shutting the door when they're eating. At first, open it as soon as they are done. After a few times, wait a few minutes before opening the door, then a few minutes more, and so on. If your pup starts to whine or act like they're uncomfortable, you are moving too fast. Next time, keep the time a little shorter.

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5

Start using commands

Make sure your dog is happy being in the crate before you leave the room. busypix / Getty Images

Get your pup accustomed to being in the crate at other times of the day. Assign a command such as "go to bed" and encourage your dog to enter the crate upon hearing this command.

When they enter the crate, praise your dog and give them a treat. At first, leave the door open, but if your dog seems content, start closing the door for short increments. When your dog is happy to stay in the crate for 30 minutes, he is ready to progress to the next step.

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6

Crating your dog when you go out

Leave your dog a toy or something to play with. lempelziv / Getty Images

Use the command, praise, treat, process, to get your dog into the crate, and place some toys in the crate to serve as comfort and entertainment. Then leave the house without making any fuss about doing so. Keep in mind, though, that you shouldn’t be crating your pup for more than four or five hours in the day.

At this stage, it’s also a good idea to continue crating your pup for short intervals during the day, so they don’t associate going in the crate with being left alone. If they begin to view the crate negatively, this will undo all your hard work.

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7

Crating your dog overnight

Your dog will come to recognize the crate as their bed. Barnes_Photo / Getty Images

Use the same command, praise, treat process to get your dog into the crate for overnight. When first transitioning your dog to overnight crate stays, it’s a good idea to situate the crate near to where you sleep, so your dog feels like they have some company. With a puppy, having the crate close at hand also allows you to hear if they cry to go to the toilet. Until your puppy is at least 12 weeks old, they will not be able to hold their bladder the entire night.

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8

Change locations

Specially designed crates make traveling with your pet that much easier. Orchidpoet / Getty Images

You may want your pup to get used to being in other places when inside the crate if you plan to use it for travel. Begin with different rooms in the house, then set it up in the garden. The next step is placing it in the car if you are going to be using it there.

Dogs should always have access to their crate, and it should be kept comfortable with a nice blanket. This will help them come to see it as their own little safe space that they can use whenever they want.

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9

Be patient

Never keep your dog in the crate longer than they are comfortable. Sharon_Mendonca / Getty Images

With some dogs, this whole process may not be a breeze. Forcing your dog into their crate will backfire; your poor pup will become fearful of it, and you will have to start from the beginning again. Take things slowly and ensure that your dog is comfortable and happy. Once your pup has gotten used to having the crate around, they will likely enjoy going in there and having their own place to get away from things and nap.

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Some things to keep in mind

Playful Golden Retrievers brothers playing with a ball in a crate. Sharon Gucker / Getty Images

How long your dog takes to adjust to the crate will depend on their breed, temperament, and past experiences. The goal is for a dog to feel relaxed and safe in their create, so it’s important not to rush training.

Your dog’s natural denning instinct should serve to make crate training a little easier. Their wild ancestors would seek out the safety of an enclosed space for birthing or when sick or injured. In this way, crates are great for helping dogs feel calm and secure.

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